Courses

Books Behind Bars: Life, Literature, and Leadership (Read full description, PDF)
Students in this course grapple in a profound and personal way with timeless human questions: Who am I? Why am I here? How should I live? They do this by facilitating discussions about short masterpieces of Russian literature with residents at a maximum security juvenile correctional center. The integrated service-learning curriculum provides a unique opportunity for purposeful literature study, community engagement, and youth mentoring. The course can also help you develop essential professional and personal leadership skills. To learn more about the Books Behind Bars program, click here.

Tycoons, Tyrants, and Tortured Souls in Russian Literature (Read full description, PDF)
From Peter the Great to Putin, Russian society has been marked by a strong divide between the haves and the have-nots, the mighty and the miserable, the money-driven and the morally inspired. We will trace these themes and historical developments through readings of masterpieces of Russian literature, past and present. In addition to exploring Russian literature and culture, the course will also encourage you to think about your personal attitudes towards success, money, morality, and social justice. What can the Russian literary depictions of tycoons, tyrants, and tortured souls teach us about our own society and our own lives? What can Russians and Russian writers learn from us?

Tolstoy’s Art and the Art of Reading Tolstoy (Read full description, PDF)
“The goal of an artist,” Tolstoy wrote, “is not to solve a question irrefutably, but to force people to love life in all its countless, inexhaustible manifestations.” Taking Tolstoy’s statement as our inspiration, this course students will help students gain a deeper understanding of the unique artistry an epic vision of Russia’s greatest prose writer. We will concentrate on the ways in which Tolstoy uses the power of the word to transform the ordinary world into something extraordinary, mysterious, and inexhaustible, while simultaneously exploring life’s fundamental questions: Given that I will die, how should I live? What will make me happy? What is my responsibility to others?

An Extraordinary Ordinariness: Anton Chekhov and the Creation of the Modern Realist Theater (Read full description, PDF)
The world of Chekhov’s plays is inhabited by ordinary, yet charming, people doing ordinary things and suffering in ordinary, yet deeply real and touching ways. This vision constituted nothing less than a revolution in modern theater. This class introduces students to the unique technique, poetics, and deeply humane worldview of Chekhov’s theater. We will carefully read and enjoy Chekhov’s major plays, as well as his earlier farces and one-acts, with a particular focus on how text, subtext, imagery, acting choices, directorial vision, and physical environment contribute to the overall theatrical experience. Students will be challenged to use their creative imagination, as well as their analytical skills, in order to penetrate the rich, delicate artistic fabric of Chekhov’s theater. As part of this course, students will be asked to make short in-class presentations, including optional scene and monologue performances.

19th-Century Russian Literature: The Search for Self in the Russian Classics (Read full description, PDF)
From copy clerks to kings, outcasts to aristocrats, demons to dandies, the characters from the nineteenth-century Russian masterpieces represent a breathtaking panoply  of both Russian and universal human types. These characters—and the writers who created them—struggled with timeless human questions: What does it mean to live a good life? What will make me truly happy? Is suffering good for me? What is my responsibility to my fellow man?  When should I be a leader, and when a follower? Is spiritual wealth more valuable than material wealth? Does God exist? In the works we read, many of these subjects are woven together into beautiful artistic wholes, in which meaning and artistic method are closely interlinked. We will explore these questions as they are raised in short stories, novels, poems, and plays by Pushkin, Lermontov, Turgenev, Gogol, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Chekhov).

All That Glitters: The Meaning of Money in the Russian Mind (Read full description, PDF)
From Peter the Great to Putin, Russian society has been marked by a strong divide between the haves and the have-nots, the mighty and the miserable, the money-driven and the morally inspired. We will trace these themes and historical developments through readings of masterpieces of Russian literature, past and present. In addition to exploring Russian literature and culture, the course will also encourage you to think about your personal attitudes towards success, money, morality, and social justice. What is the meaning of money in yourmind? What can the Russians teach us about  own society and our own lives? What can they learn from us?

Russia Through the Eyes of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky (Read full description, PDF)
This course will examine the ways in which two of Russia’s greatest writers artistically responded to and participated in the political, social, economic, and existential struggles of their age–the second half of the nineteenth century. In the course we will be primarily interested in the ways in which Tolstoy and Dostoevsky distilled the many paradoxes and problems of their age and transformed them into artistic visions which ultimately transcend time and place. Are Tolstoy and Dostoevsky more alike or different as writers and thinkers about the problems of their time? What, if anything, can we take from these two novelists that might help us reflect on the struggles we face in our time and in our own lives?

Russian Masterpieces: Struggles with Authority in the Russian Novel (Read full description, PDF)
The second half of the nineteenth-century and the first decades of the twentieth-century in Russia was an era defined, above all else, by the spirit of social, political, and existential struggle. It was in this age of conflict and stru1ggle that the Russian novel reached its full maturity, resulting in the creation of some of the greatest books ever written. The spirit of struggle is not only represented in these novels. It is also embodied by them. In the same way that the characters depicted in the works continually search for meaning in an upturned world, so the novelists themselves search for modes of artistic expression which best represent the troubled, and striving, spirit of their age. We will pursue both of these levels of interpretation through close and careful readings of the novels themselves. 

Great Russian Short Stories
Through close readings of canonical Russian short stories from Pushkin through Chekhov, in this course we analyze the ways in which leading Russian writers used the form of the short story to make poignant, pithy philosophical statements about their world within an evolving literary and social context. Topics to be discussed are genre, narrative structure and voice, tone, linguistic technique, and the short story as venue for social, philosophical, ethical, and psychological reflection.

First Year Russian
In this course students gain basic proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing Russian. The course balances real-world communication skill development with the rigorous study of grammar.

Fourth Year Russian (Read full description, PDF)
This course assumes a solid knowledge of Russian, and will be conducted entirely in Russian. Students develop advanced reading, writing, and speaking skills, and the semester culminates in a live student performance in Russian of scenes from either Gogol’s Ревизор (“The Inspector General”) or Chekhov’ Свадьба (“The Wedding”).

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